Gordon Hayward's potential return vs. Cavs more significant for long term than short


An otherwise uneventful date on the Celtics’ schedule could turn into a big night. Monday’s matchup against the Cavaliers — who are in complete disarray and just got smoked by the Sixers — could mark the return of Gordon Hayward.

“Tomorrow is a possibility,” he said at Sunday’s practice. “We’ll see how I feel when I wake up, go through shootaround. We’ll see how it feels.”

Returning to face a team like the Cavs is perfect for Hayward. It’s almost like a warm-up. And, of course, this is a great thing for the Celtics in the short term, which will pay off in the long haul.

But there’s more to the long term positives with an early return for Hayward.

The Celtics aren’t in dire need of Hayward. There’s a game or two Boston might’ve won if he was healthy, but they’ve done very well without him.

Other than the fact he’s itching to get back on the court, there is no reason to bring Hayward back early. So a Monday return — or coming back at any point this week — illustrates the Celtics’ confidence in how his hand has healed.

“The bone is healed,” Hayward said. “I can’t do anything that’s going to hurt — I’m going to have to do something equally as hard, probably more than last time (to injury it again).”

Hayward still has some soreness, but this means Boston believes the injury will eventually become a non-factor. Because, again, why bring him back ahead of schedule unless there’s certainty surrounding Hayward’s condition in the coming months, in addition to the present?

Coming back quickly also allows Hayward the chance to work through the mental reservations he’ll have with using his left hand.

“I’m still guarding (my hand) and it’s going to be like that for a little while. It’s natural,” he said. “Part of that is getting out there and playing and just getting over it mentally.”

The other Celtic whose status is up in the air on Monday is Robert Williams. He is dealing with left hip soreness. Brad Stevens said he is doubtful.

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